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From the author of Game Consoles

Game Consoles

Playstation 3

Price: $269 and up

Key apps: Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, MLB, Netflix, NHL, Pandora, Sony Music Unlimited, and YouTube

More info: http://us.playstation.com/ps3/

Most people think of the Playstation 3 as a device for games, but it's so versatile and powerful that it's more like a computer that happens to play games. Thanks to its collection of free apps, the Playstation can function as the single entertainment device that you attach to your TV. It can stream Netflix and Hulu, deliver music from Sony's Music Unlimited or Pandora, and grab audio, video, and photos from computers, and, of course, play a library of great games. That said, the Playstation 3 actually makes sense only for streaming media if you're also going to play games. There are many less-expensive options for devices that are solely designed to stream media. But, if you or someone in your household is also into video games, the Playstation is an excellent, flexible choice.

Pros: Great game console; terrific multimedia features; user-added apps.

Cons: If you don't need games, a Blu-ray player is about one-half the price; TV-style remote is an extra purchase.

Xbox 360

Price: $199 and up

Key apps: Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Hulu, iHeartRadio, Netflix, Pandora, Slacker, and YouTube

More info: http://www.xbox.com/

The situation with the Xbox, the Playstation's chief competitor, is much the same. It offers a slew of streaming audio and video options from all the big names and supplements them with a large library of engaging games. As with the Playstation, some are exclusive to Xbox, so if games are important to you, which console offers what titles may drive your purchase decision. Nintendo's Wii consoles also offer some streaming features, but they're not as powerful or robust as those on the PS3 or Xbox, so it's best to stick to the Wii primarily for games.

Pros: Great game console; terrific multimedia features; user-added apps.

Cons: If you don't need games, a Blu-ray player is about one-half the price; TV-style remote is an extra purchase.

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